Veteran copy editor Marc Sichel was well aware that his newspaper company had been seeking ways to save money and consolidate services at its New Milford office.

Mr. Sichel had hoped he might survive the downsizing. And he did -- until Friday.

On Friday afternoon, the Journal Register Company, parent company to the Housatonic Times and Litchfield County Times, laid off seven employees in the small New Milford operation.

That leaves an estimated 14 employees at the Bank Street office.

Publisher Matt DeRienzo, who heads up JRC's Central Connecticut properties, confirmed the layoffs Monday.

"We're shifting away from more production-oriented print production to more direct news reporting online," Mr. DeRienzo said.

"A shifting of page layout has gone to Torrington," he explained. "That allowed us to eliminate an administrative assistant and a circulation person in New Milford."

Mr. DeRienzo said the company will be using the staff of the Litchfield County Times and Register-Citizen in Torrington to produce copy for the two New Milford-based papers -- Litchfield County Times and Housatonic Times.

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"We're shifting away from more production-oriented print production to more direct news reporting online." Matt DeRienzo, publisher About layoffs at Housatonic Times and Litchfield County Times

"In the end, we'll have more writers than ever," Mr. DeRienzo said. "We find people are getting more news now that is related to their interests and social circles. Our writers will be producing copy that will then be distributed to whatever platform makes sense."

Mr. DeRienzo said print editions of both the Housatonic Times and Litchfield County Times will continue to be published but fewer staff members will be seen at the New Milford office.

On Friday afternoon, Mr. DeRienzo pulled seven staff members aside to let them know the company was not earning enough profit and a decision had been made to reduce salary expenses, said Mr. Sichel, who has worked in the local media for two decades.

Most of the Housatonic Times staff was let go, including veteran Brookfield and New Milford reporter Scott Benjamin, sports editor Laura McCusker and photographer Walter Kidd.

Brookfield First Selectman Bill Davidson said he was saddened for Mr. Benjamin personally, someone who he said has more historical knowledge about the town "than just about anybody.''

Mr. Davidson said he is unaware of the newspaper's plans, but he is certain these layoffs will impact the communities where the newspaper serves.

"We'll get less news coverage, not more, and that's not good,'' Mr. Davidson said.

Mr. Sichel said he has mixed emotions about the layoffs. It was clearly a blow, he said, but he has high hopes for the future.

"It's weird to be part of a news story,'' Mr. Sichel said, noting that he holds no grudges as this was strictly a business decision.

"I do feel for everyone who went with me," he said. "We're all in different situations, and I really feel for all of them and wish that everybody will bounce back kind of quickly. They're all good people, so I think they will.''

Mr. Sichel paused for a moment.

"I'm determined this is not the end of something," he said. "It's on to the next chapter for everybody.''

This was the second major round of layoffs the New Milford-based papers have suffered in the past two years.

In January 2009, four Housatonic Publication weeklies were shut down and The New Milford Times and Litchfield County Times were restructured, with the New Milford paper taking on Brookfield coverage and being renamed the Housatonic Times.

Journal Register Company purchased Housatonic Valley Publishing Company in January 1998 and subsequently acquired Litchfield County Times.

Contact Susan Tuz

at stuz@newstimes.com

or 860-355-7322 or Nanci G. Hutson at nhutson@newstimes.com or 860-354-2274.